Things you don’t need for grad school

I’ve accumulated a lot of shit over the span of my life, though what’s most relevant right now is all the shit I’ve collected over the last 6 years. While packing for the big move on Saturday, I’ve found a number of things I forgot I had, which means they need to be given away/every last embarrassing trace of them destroyed. Some of them are from my UIS days, and a lot of them are things I saved knowing they would come in handy for programming as a resident advisor/multicultural advocate.

None of them, however, are things I need for graduate school.

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A grand return, a grand exit

I start this blog post the way I’ve started the few that have appeared here in the last several months: I know that updates have been few and far between, that I vaguely allude to things going on in my life but never really explain them fully, that I really need to get back on stupid Two Towers liveblogging, &c., &c.

Well, in this triumphant return to blogging, I intend to reveal all/more like most to you.

I mentioned a while ago that I had started a new job at a coffee house, which is part of the reason why I have been so absent from the internet. This job has really been a joy and something I’m terribly thankful for–that great combination of giving me tons of hours (explaining my lack of stupid internet production), meeting and working with absolutely fantastic people, and learning a craft that is quite near and dear to my heart. I love working with food and drink—from production, enjoyment, and reviewing to the analysis of all three (and the myriad factors that affect them). Coffee is just one thing that’s particularly special and euphoria-inducing for me. I’ve always loved the atmosphere of coffee places, and frankly, silly as it may sound, have wanted to work at one since before I was old enough to even think about working part-time.

I’ve been trying to put my nose to the grind, travel less, and save my earnings, so as I said, I’ve had a difficult time keeping up with some of the goals I set for myself at the beginning of the year. I haven’t lost sight of them, though, and starting in July I intend to get back to reading two books a month, liveblogging books for no good reason, and focusing on the design/story projects that I’ve  been kicking around in my head for the last three months. More information about those will be posted to Drawing Coffee as the particulars are established, but I’ll say right now that they require volunteer participation, so I hope that it’s something some of you will consider.

The other big focus of my attention recently has really mandated how I spent the rest of my time and efforts in the last few months. I’m glad to finally be able to publicly, proudly announce that I will be attending the School of the Art Institute of Chicago in September, seeking my Masters of Fine Arts in Writing. After a lot of work and a lot of deliberation about the direction of my life in the last year and a half, my decision to go back to school has brought me a lot of peace (and excitement! and of course, some mandatory stress). My mantra on writing is that, in order to be a writer in the 21st century, you have to be a hustler. You’ve got to be involved in every stage of the process: your own writing, the innovation and practices of the publishing industry, and in education and outreach. I felt grad school was the best manner of equipping myself to participate in all of these areas. As I go about crafting a degree and a job for myself, I intend to discuss my thoughts on the state of writing more at length, hopefully in the format of blog-columns somewhat similar to my previous writings for the Daily Illini.

That said, I’m moving to Chicago in the very near future. I was there last week with my soon-to-be roommate Allison (most recently a lady of Cambridge, as you may remember) to find an apartment. We found this.

There are so many things that I’m looking forward to, and I know that were it not for the things I’ve done here and the people who helped me along, I wouldn’t be headed in the direction I am. I can never express enough gratitude to:

  • My graduate school references, a team of brilliant and passionate people who have hugely shaped my life in the last six years, and whose willingness to represent me leaves me utterly dumbfounded. All five of them have encouraged me, inspired me, and given me hope for the state of writing and writing education.
  • My writing group, which has been a cornerstone of my sanity for the entirety of my time here. What an incredible luxury to hear their experiences and their works, and to have the benefit of their listening ears. A phenomenal bunch of people to be forever indebted to.
  • My friends, who are everywhere–my C-U folks, my recent grads who I am endlessly proud of, my old-new UIS crowd, my spectacular coworkers, my bf4l across the country, my Chicago crew, my fellow Kings of Wicker Park, my scattered friends who I only get to talk with via internet and text, a certain Merton…I could never name all of you in all the places you are, but without you, there could certainly be no me. Thank you for all the conversations and experiences both poignant and absurd, and your endless willingness to listen and invest your time and care in me.
  • My family, who somehow still surprise me with their level of confidence in me and my goals. I should know by now what an incredible support network I have, but I cannot help but be amazed.
  • The internet. You know, all you guys out there. Someone has to read this shit. I hope that you’ll continue to follow along as I expand my portfolio of work at Drawing Coffee and keep up with my misadventures and silliness here.<3

Thank you to everyone for everything.

Well hello there

I thought about discussing my 2010–some variation on the standard “year in review” post, maybe include some obligatory 2011 goals, &c., &c. (bringing back the “&c.” is one of my 2011 goals). But that would be terribly boring for me to write and equally terribly boring for you to read, so if you really want to know, I guess you’ll just have to ask me.

I will say that after working non-stop on them for about the last two months, I’m finally finished with my first round of grad school applications. I imagine I should hear back from all five places by early March, and depending on the results, I’ll apply to a sixth place for fall 2011. Otherwise, it’s back to the drawing board for 2012 apps, which I already have some ideas about. I would still really like to do a post on my ideas about writing and what I’d like to be doing at graduate school, so I’ll try to make sure that materializes over the next week or so.

Moving on: another of my goals (god, this might as well be a year-in-review post), and the only other one I’ll talk about (whew) is my intention to read at least two books a month, which I’m well on my way to accomplishing for January. After many years of thinking I would like to read it, I finally got around to Dave Eggers’s memoir, A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius, which I found absolutely excellent. His writing style is definitely polarizing–you’ll either love his lengthy, manic asides and purposely hyperbolic language and representations of scenarios, or find it obnoxious. One of the reasons I enjoyed it is Eggers’s willingness to rip himself apart in front of your eyes–he talks boastfully of himself and then elbows you in the ribs and says, “Jesus Christ, am I a douchebag or what?” His writing is very self-aware without bragging about his own cleverness…it really sounds like Eggers trying to qualify the situation and being unable to stop himself from trying to explain as much as he can, and realizing oh shit I’m talking too much, shut up shut up and feeling genuinely embarrassed.

I’ve moved on to The Fellowship of the Ring, which I tried to read once in high school and found incredibly boring. This time’s going much better, although it’s still not making its way to the top of my fantasy epic list. From a world-building perspective, I give Tolkien a lot of credit–that has been the really impressive part thus far, more so than the story itself, although he doesn’t go into a significant amount of it in depth in this particular book. Fellowship also gives me an opportunity to use my amazing summarization skills. What follows is a real conversational excerpt from earlier this evening:

Chelsea: probs gonna read me some more Fellowship of the Ring tonight
Allison: barreling through it?
Chelsea: yeah, chugging along
Chelsea: It is much less boring than the first time I tried to read it
Allison: that’s good
Chelsea: Frodo just got his bitch-ass self stabbed in the shoulder
Allison: ahah. stupid ass.
Chelsea: they just crossed the first river and Aragorn’s like “effffff we are too far north, we gonna miss Rivendell”

After this, I should probably finish Waiting for the Barbarians, but I’m also interested in opening either The New Life (a perhaps less depressing employment of Orhan Pamuk’s ability to enchant through his writing) or Visions of Cody (a book of sketches, which are a huge point of interest for me, regarding much of the character material for On The Road, which I finished recently and which touched me deeply). Of course, in addition to all of these ahem ahem literary selections yes well, I also devoured the Scott Pilgrim series in its entirety.

Anyway, hello, 2011. More soon.

How to start a trip to Boston


Working on story revisions and listening to music after enjoying some dinner at a hotel near the airport.
Yes, that is a brick wall behind me. And yes, I am wearing a Kate Beaton shirt.

Oh yes well

For those of you who don’t know:

  1. Sorry, no nanonovels this week. I’m revising stories (gasp!) for writing samples for grad school applications (double gasp!). Oh yeah, I’m applying to grad school or something.
  2. Didn’t see anything on Twitter already about surprise not-vegetarian foods (I probably just didn’t look hard enough). #Vegwarning seemed too long and potentially confusing, so I opted for #notveg. If you notice anything that surprisingly isn’t  vegetarian (like some miso soup, much to my chagrin), take my hashtag for a whirl.
  3. Going to Boston on Saturday. Expect some posts about it. Other things to expect in the near future: photopost and recipes for successful seitan tikka masala, and a discussion about writing in a digital age.

Well, now I have to go enjoy the unseasonable warmth.

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